Yet another trans 101, in which Helen tells cis people What’s What

February 28, 2009

tg_black-on_pink_100x107It’s a sad-but-true fact that, almost without exception, every single online conversation that I have, which includes even one cis person, is invariably dragged back to the same starting point: trans 101.

And while we – trans people – get bogged down in these frankly tedious tutorials, our lives – our real lives, our experiences, our hopes and dreams – our existences – are, as a consequence, marginalised, tokenised and always subject to question (if we’re lucky), or erased and made invisible (if we’re not).

Endlessly having to deal with cis people’s demands to explain and justify ourselves is an energy-suck and a humungous time-waster. Because cis people can wander off thinking how fascinating the insights they’ve gained are, or how they’ve proved to themselves that their pet theories are right – and still don’t make the connection between those things, and how we still have to live our lives in their world. And the first thing we ask ourselves, after you’ve all gone on your merry way is why we always have to give these trans 101 lessons to you.

There’s actually a very convincing and well-established argument for not engaging with you at all: it’s not the job of the oppressed minority to educate our oppressors – and yes, you do oppress us. Sometimes these back-to-basics questions are deliberately thrown into a conversation as a way of derailing or recentering it; the aim being to paralyse discussion and thereby shut it down. Sometimes the oppressions are more subtle, unintentional, even. Either way, the net effect of having to interact with cis people at such a fundamental level is, as one of my friends has perceptively remarked, like death by a thousand papercuts.

Face it, it’s not that difficult to type ‘trans 101′ into your favourite search engine and follow a few of the links that come up. And there are any number of excellent books out there – you could do worse than start with Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl. Or read some of the posts we make on our blogs, or follow the links in our blogrolls.

At least then, when you do come back to us, your questions might have a focus. “Tell me about transgender” is one of the worst things you could ever ask; I can feel my heart sink just typing it out – and you do it Every. Single. Time.

Then you wonder why we get cross with you, why we always seem angry?

But I’ve also heard your counter-argument: “But Helen, the best way for us to learn is for you to tell us, then we hear it first-hand and we get it right”. And despite the pitfalls in your argument, I do actually have some empathy for it. (The pitfalls are (a) it’s a big, big subject which can’t be summed up in a handy pocket-sized soundbite and (b) I don’t speak for, or represent, all trans people). I also know that you always have “just one more question” – and that’s where it starts to become the will-sapping vortex that is behind your demand that trans people educate you.

Periodically, it seems that one or other trans woman thinks that maybe if she put together a trans 101, then she can just refer the questioning cis person to it. It might stick in our throats that we’re doing your grunt work, but we figure that in the long run, the time and effort we put into writing a dedicated piece will pay off – you get your basic information and we hope that we get to have the conversations about the subjects that are of more interest. It never actually works out like that, of course, but we persist, in the faint hope that one day

So welcome to Yet another trans 101, in which Helen tells cis people What’s What.

It’s not a definitive piece, by any stretch of the imagination – other trans people may or may not agree with my views and opinions, but that’s okay, we each have our own takes on what it means to be trans in a cis person’s world. Neither is it a very structured piece; things loop back into (and out of) other things, they overlap, they intersect, and it’s the antithesis of my usual, more linear style of writing. It doesn’t reach a particular conclusion: that’s not its purpose.

One point I want to make very clear is this: my identity is not up for negotiation. I’m a trans woman (my current definition of the term is in my recent post of the same name – link here) and it really doesn’t matter whether any cis person can or can’t deal with that, whether you accept me as the person I am or not: it’s who I am. So please, spare me the indignant lectures about why/how I can’t possibly exist, or how being trans is an affront to your cherished academic and theoretical ideals of what gender is, or isn’t. Those things are interesting to discuss, sure – but I’m here, now; I’m a real flesh-and-blood human being, just like you. And, just like you, I don’t have to validate my existence to anyone.

————

I often use the words trans (short for transsexual) – my definition of the term is in my earlier post trans woman (link here) – and cis, short for cissexual. At its simplest, I use the word ‘cis’ to mean ‘not trans’ – but it’s a little more complex than that. As my transition has progressed, I’ve become very aware of the privileges and oppressions around being a trans woman. And a preoccupation of mine is the privileges that cis people have, that are denied to trans people, apparently by virtue of our mere existence.

Several bloggers have put together very useful and informative cis privilege checklists, and I’d really recommend you go and look at the following links. You do need to understand how cis privilege works; like most privileges, it’s given to you regardless of whether or not you want it, and whether or not you’re even aware of it. And your cis privilege does affect the way you treat trans people, believe me.

I should also add that, while they’re useful as a kind of shorthand, it’s my experience that any privilege checklist is by definition not telling the full story. There are nuances and subtleties which do not easily lend themselves to categorisation. But it’s a start, and you really need to give cis privilege a lot of thought; in particular, you need to watch how your cis privilege affects trans people when you interact with us.

  • Cis Privilege Checklist: From the Taking Up Too Much Space blog, this is a very comprehensive checklist.
  • The Cisgender Privilege Checklist: This one’s from The Transgender Boards and is also useful, although I’m not especially comfortable with the word ‘cisgender’. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
  • Trans Bingo Card: Although not a checklist per se, I think it fits in here very well. It lists many of the common questions and statements thrown at us by cis people who clearly haven’t examined their privilege. A lot of these things are actually deeply hurtful, more so when the cis person using the them neither intends to (nor is aware of) the upset these kind of remarks cause. Hence the apparently snarky tone – but when you’ve heard these things for the millionth time, then snark is often our best, and sometimes only, form of self-protection.

————

Okay. Cissexual vs cisgender. I need to come at this from a bit of an angle, so bear with me. The literal meaning of ‘trans’ is ‘across’, so it could be said that ‘transsexual’ means ‘crossing from one sex to another’. That definition works for me. Likewise, you might say that ‘transgender’ means ‘crossing from one gender to another’. That definition doesn’t work for me; by which I mean that I have always perceived myself as being female, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed through my transition. My sex may have changed but my gender hasn’t.

This is actually another sticking point in understanding trans people; there is a tendency to use ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ synonymously. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, there’s a world of difference – although it’s kind of hard to explain sometimes. There are a couple of truisms relating to this which, although they don’t tell the full story, are a useful way of getting some small insight. First, it’s sometimes said that ‘sex is what’s between a person’s legs, but gender is what’s between their ears’. Alternatively, you might try ‘sex is who I go to bed with, but gender is who I go to bed as.

Coming back to cissexual vs cisgender, this distinction is why, when I use the term ‘cis’, I mean ‘cissexual’, not ‘cisgender’.

And it should also be pointed out that none of these expressions is a slur on a cis person’s cis-ness. They’re just a useful reminder of a generally overlooked/concealed power imbalance in the relations between us.

————

I want to talk about the ‘gender is a construct’ meme at this point. This handy-dandy cliche is generally attributed to Simone de Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex – this translation is from Wikiquote:

On ne naît pas femme: on le devient.
(One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman)

I believe a more useful view is this, from Stephen Whittle’s essay Where did we go wrong? Feminism and trans theory – two teams on the same side?

…I do not care whether I was ‘born this way’ or ‘became this way’. [...] Whatever made me, I am, and I can no longer say who the ‘I’ is, except through a descriptive process…

Unfortunately, de Beauvoir’s idea is one of the usual underpinnings of the common, and too-frequent, attacks made on trans women by some cis women feminists, that as gender is socially constructed, a cis man can never be a ‘real’ woman because he wasn’t born female-bodied.

There are two fundamental flaws in this assertion. First, the conflation of constructivism and essentialism, which seems invariably to be ignored or denied by those who practise transphobic hate speech. Which would be risible if it wasn’t for the vitriolic way it’s thrown at us, without even a hint of awareness of the inherent contradictions of the two opposing views.

The second problem – and it’s a form of oppression that’s as vicious as it’s subtle – is the rejection of the trans woman’s perception of herself as being gendered female, not male, and certainly not cis. I never was male, just male-bodied. This is also where cis privilege starts to play out: the cis women who generally expound the hardline constructivist/essentialist view have the luxury of being of a gender that matches their sexed bodies. Their cis privilege renders it impossible for them to realise or accept the gender dissonance which, to me, is at the heart of the experience of being trans. Which would be bearable if we simply agreed to disagree and go our separate ways. But they are unable or unwilling to do that because their entire belief system is founded on this dogma; to admit otherwise would require a – pardon the pun – radical rethinking of their particular brand of feminism. Which, apparently, they are not prepared to do.

The next stage of their attack – and attack is the time-honoured best form of defence, after all – is generally to repeat a variation of the hate speech of Janice Raymond as iterated in her transphobic screed The Transsexual Empire: the making of the she-male:

I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.

The problem with that contention is that – despite her protestation that she was ‘merely’ advocating legal limitations on changing sex – the only possible way to implement it, as I see it, would result in the complete eradication of trans people. Genocide, not to put to fine a point on it.

————

This might be an appropriate moment to say a little about the language around trans oppression.

Time and again, I have witnessed, and experienced, a variety of verbal attacks by cis women feminists and it has become very easy to fathom the nature of these attacks by considering – from a trans perspective – some of the race-related examples set out by the Unapologetic Mexican in the Wite-Magik Attax section of his Glosario resource pages.

It seems to me that cis privilege and white privilege manifest themselves in very similar ways (this is not to say that one is worse than the other). As an oppressed group, trans women need a language to describe our oppression. UM’s Glosario gives trans women some language that’s based on race, but is applicable to being trans.

For example, it’s illuminating to re-read Nezua’s definition of Wite-Magik Attax through the lens of being trans:

A predictable series of non-arguments that attempt to denigrate, negate, or invalidate ideas, feelings, or experience as related by a [trans] person. These attacks take many forms, and while each person making the attack thinks their (dys)logic to be unerring, they echo timeless and faulty cognitive patterns. These Wite-Magik Attax invariably escalate in intensity, however, the longer the [trans] person attempts to assert their reality.

————

Somewhere around this point, we usually get sucked into another timeworn argument which states that trans women are reinforcing gender stereotypes by transitioning to a female binary spectrum identity. The short answer is that very few of us, trans or cis, are entirely gender neutral in our existence – as demonstrated by the insistence of some cis women radical feminists on simultaneously denying trans women access to their sacred ‘wymyn-born wymyn only’ spaces, at the same time as they tell us there is either no such thing as gender, or that it can be learned like the lines of a play. As I mentioned earlier, their logic is fatally flawed: if there’s no such thing as gender, or it can be dismantled as easily as it can be constructed, then why is there any need for ‘wymyn-born wymyn only’ spaces?

The fact is that there is a substantial body of medical and scientific evidence which shows quite clearly that gender is not something we make up, either as a result of suffering a ‘mental disorder’ (as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines us), or for sexual gratification (fetishism, autogynephilia), or for any of the other ludicrous and offensive reasons that uninformed people like to believe. There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a definite neurological element to the condition of transsexualism. It’s likely to have existed in the human race for a very, very long time, and is unlikely to disappear overnight.

Transsexual people are here, we’re real, and I for one would appreciate it if cis people would show us the same respect, concern and compassion that they expect trans people to show them. And on that note, I think I’ll bring this post to a close. There are questions I’ve not answered, topics I’ve not covered, but it’s such a huge subject it’s as difficult to know where to stop as it is to start.

In closing, for anyone seeking answers that this post hasn’t provided, I’d recommend following some of the links I provide in the sidebar of this blog, under the subheading Trans 101 (Hey Lord, don’t ask me questions)

22 Responses to “Yet another trans 101, in which Helen tells cis people What’s What”

  1. Cedar Says:

    Hey, um, I just want to say that I’m *really* uncomfortable having “cis” mean “cissexual” not “cisgender” or, more accurately, “cissexual and cisgender”–just as I’m not at all comfortable with trans meaning “transsexual” rather than “transgender” or “transgender or transsexual”. This is something from an earlier post of yours that I’d meant to address. The REASON I use transsexual is to avoid colonizing our umbrella term, making “trans” exclude people for whom it is relevant, who could help us in coalition, or who identify with it. And if “trans” is only transsexual, then despite the fact that I am transsexual, you’re not including me. Most of my theory is about transsexuality, but I’m also transgender in a different way, that is, ‘genderqueer’ for lack of a better word. And if those experiences suddenly aren’t relevant, then I get really really unsafe.

    So, yeah. The MovementTM isn’t just transsexual folks, and it’s important to recognize our/your specificity of place in alliance with others, not in othering them.

  2. Helen G Says:

    Fair enough. My concern about the use of the word trans is that it is too often used as a prefix, not an adjective. And as such, I’m *really* uncomfortable that transsexual is so often lumped into the umbrella term transgender. As I said, I identify as transsexual, not transgender. The outcome is, in my opinion, that the voices of transsexual people are drowned out by the voices of other, larger and more vocal groups who also fall within that umbrella.

    This is the same reason that I’m *really* uncomfortable about the acronym LGBT, which usually seems to mean G___L_____b__________(t)

    To be honest, I’m starting to favour Viviane Namaste’s term TS/TG as a way of suggesting that there are differences as well as similarities whilst avoiding being entirely subsumed within the monolith transgender.

    ETA: Cissexual/cisgender – call ‘em what you like, they still exercise their privilege over me, they still oppress me. That makes *me* feel unsafe. But I have noticed they seem more likely to take greater offence at being called cisgender, at least in most of the recent comments I’ve seen where the subject was discussed.

  3. queenemily Says:

    Right, that’s a fair enough point.

    Some cissexuals, particularly in my experience non-normatively gendered andro or butch identified lesbians, focus on cisgender as a term in order to deny they have cissexual privilege.

    So distinguishing between cissexual and cisgender is important, and maybe saying cis when you mean cissexual blurs the boundaries a bit.

    Having said that, I do think that transsexual people using merely trans is a valid strategy for avoiding the pathologising baggage of “transsexual.” It’s not just reverse colonising–I mean, transsexual has been subsumed problematically into transgender for some time now–but self-assertion, no?

  4. Donna Says:

    Pardon me, could you tell me about transgender?

    Yes I am EVILLLLLLL! But I love you!

    This is great and you’re right, I see so much in common the oppressive forces POC contend with and those that trans people contend with. That’s why as I’m reading I’m thinking, “Yup, yup”, “Oh yeah, I hear that”, etc

    The big one is that “learning moment” thing. Sure we’re laying on the floor broken and bleeding, but at least the white/cis women have had their learning moment. It’s our lives they are working out their theories on.

    Now I’m gonna do the clicky linky thing and read some more. Thanks!

  5. terese Says:

    thanks Helen, even though you shouldn’t have to write this, again and again! I’m also off to do some more reading.

  6. Jen Says:

    The big one is that “learning moment” thing. Sure we’re laying on the floor broken and bleeding, but at least the white/cis women have had their learning moment. It’s our lives they are working out their theories on.

    Yeah, that’s very jarring. As for terminology, well, I don’t think I have any business calling people anything other than their name, anything else seems rude.

    At the same time, we’re approaching this subject via the feminist blogosphere, which is the same as being forced to wear a silly hat and do impressions while you’re talking. It’s a stupid situation from the get go.

    One thing though, those “privilege” lists would be a lot more powerful if they were called “denied rights” lists, because they essentially enumerate basic civil rights that everyone should be entitled to. I mean, not having your doctor commit malpractice on you because of who you are! That’s not a privilege, that’s a right, as is walking around without getting beaten up. The privilege is the fact that the doctor can get away with it. And there’s privilege for people with no empathy to act like dicks and get away with it too, of course.

    I think there’s a definite link to all the ID card stuff as well. I mean, you’re getting white / cis-gendered people walking up to you and saying “tell me about your identity”, and you’re expected to just do it, like an identity-explaining machine, because of who you are, almost like your identity becomes your whole purpose.

    Mind you, I see the whole focus on identity in feminism in a similar light, seeing people enumerate a whole list of things they are, knowing full well that it won’t exclude them from anything, or gaining something from the idea that they’re potentially excluded, or even that they’d like to believe they’d be excluded(the whole “freak power!” thing really reeks of that). It’s like making a situation where you have to present your ID card every time you go anywhere or do anything – I can’t help thinking, if you live in that situation anyway, you’re not going to see it as liberating or glamourous.

    I think, because of all the above, being excluded because of identity traits turns into a kind of currency, and people on the internet almost resent you for having it. “Damn, they get all the kudos and all I got is this vagina and this cardigan!”

    Which is why I no longer have a feminist blog, essentially, because it’s easy to get involved in these discussions, and before long you’ve regressed to actual baby talk. Like Charlie and the utter fucking idiot factory.

  7. Jen Says:

    Or was it the great glass elevator?

    Whatever.

  8. Battybattybats Says:

    On trans and cis.
    My handy concise Oxford Dictionary lists Trans as meaning across, beyond, on or to the other side of, through, into another state or place, (and most importantly) surpassing, transcending.

    I did, in the spirit of recognising peoples right to self-identification, suggest to one person who objected to being included under the transgender umbrella and who complained about the changing criteria of the term transsexual, despite expecting their reasons to so not be included came from a pro-gender-binary bias and a bigotry towards binery-non-conforming folk, that a new term could be coined to define those like herself who wish to identify within a neat gender binary seperate from transgender without using offensive devaluing and invalidating of others identities terms like ‘true’ transsexual and ‘classic’ transsexual that she was at the time using.

    My suggestion was Cisgender Transsexual.

  9. queenemily Says:

    Heh. Well, if one separates out cisgender from cissexual, that’s a distinct possibility.

    I’m leery of it in some ways, because part of my issue with the inaccuracy of cisgender is that it privileges gender identification more than anything. So a non-passing-as-cissexual binary identified trans person could be oppressed *because* of gender presentation (rather than institutional cissexism) and that would be elided by such categories. That is, the inauthenticity ascribed to transsexuals, regardless of binary identification and presentation, may outweigh cissexual gender non-normativity in actual lived material negative effects. I think it’s potentially dubious and kinda misleading..


  10. [...] Yet another trans 101, in which Helen tells cis people What’s What « bird of paradox “It’s a sad-but-true fact that, almost without exception, every single online conversation that I have, which includes even one cis person, is invariably dragged back to the same starting point: trans 101. And while we – trans people – get bogged down in these frankly tedious tutorials, our lives – our real lives, our experiences, our hopes and dreams – our existences – are, as a consequence, marginalised, tokenised and always subject to question (if we’re lucky), or erased and made invisible (if we’re not).” [...]

  11. Battybattybats Says:

    Queen Emily,
    I think that, considering the transphobic bigotry of some binary-identified Trans folk towards non-binary Trans folk it makes sense that the two be considered seperate things but often found together. It also makes sense just to have the two descriptive terms.

    Clearly if we look at them as seperate we could consider that there would be different priveleges for each, A Cisgender Transsexual who passes enough to live stealth having different privelege to a Cissexual Crossdresser whose out while a Transgender Transsexual may get none… though a persons self identification may not count for much if the way they are perceived doesn’t match that so a cisgender transsexual unable to ‘pass’ would not get their full gamut of cisgender privilege.

    If we don’t seperate them into two usually overlapping catagories then how should we define and analyse the biases amongst those binary transsexuals who fit into binary society (or at least the binary aspects of society) and some who despise the non-binary people and who cannot understand the difficulties that come from being non-binary in a binary-assuming society? Or for that matter the reverse where some non-transsexual transgender focused groups *cough*Tri-Ess*cough* show a cissexual bias.

    By all means i was only making a suggestion and I recognise it may be a flawed one.

  12. Cedar Says:

    Helen,

    The thing is that I just don’t think it’s true that transsexual folks are underrepresented in trans movements. I think we’re underrepresented in cisgender queer theory, cisgender “third gender” anthropology, and armchair feminism, that those fields reify this gender-non-conforming/third-gender/gender-non-binary/whatever deal, and that subversivist communities look down on transsexual women (and sometimes men). But actual activist movements, particularly in re: legislation? Hell no. In the ENDA debacle of last year, here in the US, even the so-called “inclusive” bill specifically allowed gender based dress codes. Which would mean that I could no longer be fired for being transsexual, but still fired for being genderqueer, legally. In practice, the latter would probably only be used in support of the former, but still.

    I mean, PFC? NCTE? NTAC? It’s Time North Carolina? Illinois Gender Advocates? All transsexual orgs that give short shrift to GNC folks. When they try, they frequently screw it up–the NGLTF survey purports to be about all transgender people, but 1)only allows for the possibility of being transsexual OR gender-non-conforming, over the course of one’s entire life (where I’ve presented as a (cissexual) gender-non-conforming man and as a (transsexual) GNC woman, and 2)the vast majority of the questions don’t totally make sense for GNC folks.

    I know Julia Serano says it, but frankly, she’s dead wrong, and I and a lot of my friends were really discomforted by how she marginalizes genderqueer people, assuming that they have no “real” gender issues, don’t transition, and don’t experience things that in practice we do experience. Masculinist transsexual men & trans male spectrum folks have engineered an artificial separation between ‘genderqueer’ folks and ‘trans women’ which works (intentionally or not) to the detriment of both by taking misogyny off the table (which could and should be a moment of coalition for genderqueer people and trans women, but isn’t because both sides have been fed bullshit about the other side. (in some ways akin to how LGBT folks (and actually white straight people too) get told that POC are more homo/transphobic than white people, and straight, cis POC get told that white LGBT folks are more racist than white, straight, cis folks, in order to divide people who actually have a lot to work together on.))

    My ex, who yes was abusive but still has dignity, who’s cissexual but very much transgender, feels routinely erased and excluded in trans communities, yet despite being FAAB not infrequently gets perceived as and harassed for “being” a ‘boy in a dress.’

    Queenemily, you’re right about folks who want to avoid the stigma of “transsexual”. I don’t try to preach separating it out, I just am seriously not ok with making “trans” mean “transsexual” exclusively.

  13. belledame222 Says:

    Damn, they get all the kudos and all I got is this vagina and this cardigan!”

    -snort- But it’s a -really nice- cardigan.

  14. Lisa Harney Says:

    I think that, considering the transphobic bigotry of some binary-identified Trans folk towards non-binary Trans folk it makes sense that the two be considered seperate things but often found together. It also makes sense just to have the two descriptive terms.

    I just want to point out that I’ve encountered more transphobic bigotry from cissexual genderqueer people aimed at transsexual people (binary identified or not) than I care to think about. It’s not just one way.

  15. Helen G Says:

    Cedar: Although it’s entirely possible for people to be cissexual and transgender – eg. genderqueer people who never take hormones or undergo surgery, and who continue to live with the privilege of having a body society considers “natural” – many of those people then play oppression olympics with transsexual people. Not all do, sure, but many cissexual genderqueer people need to own up to their cissexual privilege.

  16. Battybattybats Says:

    I agree that many Transgender people do have cissexual privilege they don’t acknowledge or are often unaware of. I’m sure I have heaps of privilege I’m not aware of and I’m sure I lack heaps most others who have it aren’t aware of.

    And I agree that there is also bigotry from some of the cissexual transgender crowd.

    The stuff I have experienced was amongst older crossdressers who were standing up for Tri-Ess’s policy of marginalising Transsexuals and Bisexuals apparently for the sake of the comfort of the wives of those crossdressers who are married whose fears of their CD spouses being bisexual or possibly transitioning were apparently far more important than the needs of members who are bisexual or who are transsexual (and apparently the wives of those who are bi and/or TS!).

    I’m curious though about the other bigotry from cissexual transgender folk being spoken of because I haven’t seen it yet personally.

    So far I find on many TG sites and blogs a few very vocal cissgender transsexuals complaining about the transgender cissexuals and transgender transsexuals constantly and indeed Ive seen some of the folk they heap abuse at return fire in kind stooping to the same low tactics in epicly failed attempts to show the bigoted CG TSs a mirror.

    And amongst some crossdressing sites I’ve found another equally small and equally vocal group using pretty much identical arguments about the TSs.

    Both groups using the same logical fallacies, both blaming the other for their lack of acceptance and both blaming the GLBT movement and people who stand out rather than blend in. Both apparently consider the word activist a very dirty word and consider the struggles for equality of a number of people an unfair threat to their accpetance comfort and standing in society.

    It very much sounds precisely like Ceder’s example of POC’s and White LGBT!

    I would not be surprised that a similar effect has occured with other groups too so please do mention some examples of the kind of anti TS bigotry you’ve faced. I’m really interested to see if it falls within the same pattern.

    I suspect that all groups have fallen prey to the same divisive and false memes and sloppy generalisations resulting in self-fulfilling prophecies that have seemed to validate the claims of bigotry and thus convincing more of the ginorant.

    In each case allowing a small group of irrational bigots in each group to divide and reduce the effectiveness of all communities in the same way.

    Certainly the ones I’ve conversed with whether anti-TG TSs or anti-TS CDs the arhuments were nigh identical, the same othering practices, the same ‘they should get their own groups and labels’ the same ‘I’m harmed being associated with them’ ‘There visibility in society makes everyone think we are all like them’ ‘it’s their fault we are treated like freaks’ and the same reactions when I raise logic, when I provide data and when I point out that everyones rights require recognition of everyone elses for our own rights to be logicly valid.. the response is ad hominems, vitriol and unsubstantiated nonsense.

    It’s a fascinating phenomena. It also is very effective as it has wedged apart a huge number of natural allies vastly reducing their capacity to cooperate, organise, mobilise and keeping them all in a state of defensiveness, misstrust, suspicion, withdrawel and with most members of the communities unwilling to be involved in any political struggle even when it is clearly directly for their own benefit.

    So then, how to undo this phenomena’s power if I’m correct?

  17. Cedar Says:

    Helen,

    You read my blog, so plz don’t try to explain to me things that I post about at length.

    Just because group a(&!b) needs to own their privilege over group b(&!a) doesn’t mean group b(&!a) doesn’t also need to own their privilege over a(&!b). (!=not) Some of us are both a & b, and we get frustrated by this. I’m calling you out on your privilege. The fact that some of the people you’re marginalizing also marginalize you doesn’t make your marginalizing them ok, it’s not relevant. You said stuff that wasn’t cool, that appropriated a term that other people need exclusively for your own use–are you going to own that?

  18. jayinchicago Says:

    I have to admit that while I use these terms myself frequently, sometimes I feel I don’t have that firm a grasp on it either.

    I mean, to be real honest, as a gender expression-conforming man, I may well be in some ways cisgender (i definitely think i am cisgender) and possibly cissexual–or at least receiving cissexual privilege. Where do we have room to talk about how cis privilege applies to some trans people–is it even possible to do without muddying the waters too much?

    I mean, if I’m being honest, I have plenty of cis privilege. Nobody says shit to me on the street, I’m not harassed in bathrooms, I clean up well for job interviews (as long as the background check/references don’t out me)–but i certainly don’t have the cis(gender / sexual) privilege of a male-assigned, male-identified man.
    anyway, i think now i’m just rambling.

    a lot of the intersections we don’t tend to talk about would be interesting. what does it mean to be a fat trans person? what does it mean to have been raised working class apposed to middle class. etc.

  19. Battybattybats Says:

    Well I don’t know what term Helen is said to have appropriated but the remainder of Ceder’s point, that each group has it’s own privileges, is undoubtedly true. Though the actual privileges will vary as, despite peoples attempts to make these things definable-group-based individuals vary plenty.

    No matter how internally cisgender someone may be if their features prevent them from making use of cisgender privilege then they do and there are plenty of similar. An Effeminate in body and mannerisms Goth Non-white Male does not always get all the ‘male privilege’ that a Macho Football-playing White Male has.

    The ‘othering’ of each camp is stupid. It ignores the individual variation of us all and functions only to create divisions within divisions and leaves people trapped within the gaps between camps. Only through acceptance tolerance and support of diversity can we end the hypocracy of claiming rights and yet criticising others need for rights. It’s a total Veil Of Ignorance and Universal Equality EPIC FAIL.

    What is the basis of all our claims? Universal Human Rights (read the Yogyakarta Principles if you haven’t already).

    What is the obstruction to our claims? People who wish those rights to apply only to some rather than equally to all, people who reject diversity and individual variation and believe enforced or coercive conformity is acceptable.

    All fights for equal rights, no matter the differences of the claims, are in fact the same fight, no exceptions. Gay rights, Lesbian Rights, Transsexual Rights, Crossdresser Rights, Disabled Rights, Childrens Rights… all exactly the same or all utterly invalid because either equal rights need to apply to all equally and fairly or they dont need to exist at all and no-ones claims of rights are valid.

    As for TS/TG etc… i prefer S&GD. Sex and Gender Diversity. That way it includes those Intersex folk who don’t like being considered transgender or transsexual either. As their claim to the right not to be forced to undergo permsnant surgery before they are old enough to give consent and choose for themselves supports the claim of TG kids not to be forced through permanant puberty until they are old enough to give consent and choose for themselves, one’s active and one’s passive but they are the same right.

  20. Helen G Says:

    I’ll own that when you own your playing hierarchies of oppressions.

    Can’t believe you’re asserting that transsexual gender-conforming people dominate and have the loudest voices.

    shakes head

  21. Jen Says:

    Interesting discussion, although I don’t really presume to know very much about the experience parts of it.

    However, it strikes me, although you are all describing something very real, maybe this notion of “privilege” is inadequate to describe it.

    I mean, if I was trying to transcribe a piece of sheet music, or create a type of grammar, or do a mathematical problem, and it necessitated the kind of complicated procedures I’m seeing in this thread, I’d conclude the system itself was flawed, and try and find something else.

    The notion of “privilege” has the flaws I pointed out before – most of the things on those privilege lists are rights being denied one group of people, not privileges enjoyed by another group of people. That’s far worse. The notion of “privilege” just softens the impact.

    As for the rest, it just seems so guilt-ridden, with all this “own up to your privilege” and “you oppress people by being”. There is truth behind all of this, but figuring out who is more guilty is not going to help, and actually distracts from the real problems.

    I mean, following this logic, everyone enjoying adequate healthcare (very, very few people in the UK, cis or trans, actually)is actively oppressing anyone who isn’t and is enjoying a privilege. This is utterly nonsensical. Adequate healthcare is never a privilege, it is a necessity, and everyone should get it. We shouldn’t settle for anything else.

    The notion of “privilege” just encourages us to settle for less than basic necessities – whoever we are.

    What I will own up to, personally, is the fact that if I got cancer tomorrow there are a whole lot of reasons why the treatment I would receive would be better than that received by a trans person; and this is a huge injustice. And yes, I should be held accountable for my part in perpetrating it. To call it a “privilege”, however, is complete nonsense.

    By “privilege”, what you mean is “injustice”.

    Besides, if the whole notion necessitates all these intersectional interweavings and manipulations, and gets worse the more variables you add in, it’s obviously flawed as hell, and just shows the world that women, trans or cis, are more interested in weaving baskets than fighting injustice.

  22. Helen G Says:

    Bored now.
    Comments are closed.


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